Luke Tipping Simpsons Restaurant Birmingham

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st April 2012

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After his father arranged a placement for him in a kitchen in his youth, Luke Tipping couldn’t possibly have known at the time how much his life would be changed for the better. With the hands-on experience of the kitchen teaching him key cooking skills, he opted to supplement the placement by enrolling at a culinary college as well. His love affair with the kitchen was only just beginning though, as he has gone on to be one of the most successful chefs in the UK and can lay claim to being the Midlands Chef of the Year winner and recipient of three AA rosettes. Having formed a partnership with Andreas Antona early in his career, the two set out to make their mark on the culinary world and have gone on to establish their restaurant, Simpsons, as one of the best in the country. As executive chef of the Birmingham restaurant, Luke has been rewarded with the biggest accolade of the culinary world, a Michelin star, and retained that honour for over a decade. Luke also offers tuition, having obtained a professorship from the University College Birmingham.

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Luke once again thanks for inviting us in, a real pleasure to come here, I love coming here it’s a beautiful place. Thank you. Simpsons, I want to talk your role chef/director, how different is that, how have you had to adapt to that role? You've taken on lots of different elements, front of house, it’s not just about cooking any more is it? Well no it’s predominantly cooking, we've got a good team here. We've got a fabulous restaurant manager, and a great young team. As with the kitchen there's strength in depth and maturity in the restaurant. So it, almost runs itself with me steering it from time to time, it’s not my restaurant, but if there's one lesson I could teach someone it’s to make it yours and you won't go far wrong. Run it like it’s your own business? Exactly yes and I've been rewarded for that. I've put a lot of years in here at Simpsons with  Andreas, a lot of hours and of course people say, “You should get your own place…” but you look around you I couldn’t afford this and not many chefs could… Most chefs have a backer or something haven't they? Exactly, yes so you don’t hear about that but Andreas has rewarded me with a directorship which I'm very grateful for through my… Blood sweat and tears. Yes and he knows what I put into it. He's no fool. He's not obviously here as much as he was, certainly not cooking but the day to day role really hasn’t changed. I'm still in virtually the same time as the boys, I always go home in the afternoon to be with the family for tea and then back in the night. But it’s not getting any easier, I'm getting a bit older but the way I feel it’s the same as when I very first started. I treat it as my own. I look at it as my own restaurant and business and people respect me for that. How important was it for you as head chef to have some form of development and become director, did that re-motivate you? Did it give you fresh impetus and look at things differently? We’d been in Kenilworth for the best part of ten years before we moved here in 2004 and that was obviously great because I'm local anyway, just five miles down the road. It was a great boost for my home life that I could spend a bit more time with the family rather than being over in Kenilworth which is  26 miles away. The restaurant location and role was a challenge getting this up and running and then retaining the star and the team did a great job. You've mentioned family, lots of times there. They're very important to me and my father was a chef, I'm not going to get the violins out but my home life was very different I'm never going to sit here and say I'm at the stove every service because that's not true… But do you think we need to start breaking down that macho chef culture? Because it is still there isn’t it? You know I do 40 hours a day and I… It is but hat's up to them if that's what they want to say then so be it but… But do you not think we need people to start saying, you don’t have to do that and you can get a break and you can enjoy the family? Yes of course, and I'm fortunate like I said I've got a good team, Matt’s my Sous Chef has been here a long time, so they run it as well as I can. I'm the sort of figurehead  really But that's a testament to you and your management style isn’t it? Exactly yes. You've invested in them, you've trained them. I think if you can break it down you should do, I'm not going to sit here and say I work 18 hours a day because I don’t and I wouldn’t want to work 18 hours a day and I certainly wouldn’t have such a great family if I did that, my upbringing was very, very different to my kids and if my dad did teach me anything it was not to work like he did. I think you can always learn from every negative situation. Exactly yes definitely and I did hard work is great we all work hard but you need a balance. So as Luke Tipping then how are you going to get your profile out there more? You’re a chef/director of a Michelin star restaurant, you’re in a very elite club, how are you going to raise your profile out of Brum? To be honest I don't know whether I want it to be fair, Mark, Fine. I think there's people out there who can, people that do and I've got every respect for them because they’ve raised the profile of the industry to celebrity status, with TV and other media, but some people are cut out for that. My comfort zone is what I do in kitchen day to day and I'm happy doing that. Some do and some don’t and if the opportunity comes along who knows but I'm quite satisfied with the way it’s going here at Simpsons really. Fantastic. Let’s just talk very quickly about Bocuse d’Or and obviously Adam’s (Bennett) been very successful getting through Bocuse d’Or but how important is it for you guys to support him as well making sure he's got the time off and support he needs? Adam’s been out of the kitchen now since Christmas, along with Christian, one of our senior commis’ as he fits into the age criteria to support Adam at the Boucse. It’s not been easy for him if you speak to Adam because it’s a whole new challenge, massive, massive operation he's got to undertake but he's certainly get the support off me and us all here at Simpsons. He's now totally working in his environment at the UCB University College Birmingham who have fitted a kitchen out there with the exact replica of a Bocuse kitchen where he will be on the day. It’s a great opportunity, it’s going to be obviously hard work for him but for him, it should also bve a great PR exercise for us all I think also it’s a great PR exercise for the industry as a whole isn’t it? Adam is from Coventry but we've sort of adopted him here as a Birmingham lad it’s great that a part time Brummie is actually representing the UK in such a prestigious event. The Bocuse is so different,they have to cook proteins with garnishes that just don’t look like food. So it’s not what he does here naturally, Adam is a great craftsman and  when he's cooking at the restaurant on a Saturday night where we are rocking with 80, 90, covers there's no one better really than Adam but this is a new string to the bow, let’s put it that way. I think it’s great and I think it’s important that he's got that support and hopefully we can march on further than Simon Hulstone, who did a great job and hopefully Adam can take it that next step. I've been down a couple of times because he does feel a bit on his own sometimes, he's suffered a little bit so far that he's been left alone, no one to bounce ideas or anything off him, which how we work here with our dishes for the restaurant. I've been down a few times just to talk about things but, you know, it’s work in progress and it’s getting there and he’ll get there. Last question talk us through the dish you’re going to cook for us today? Okay today’s dish is a dish we're just about to put on the á la carte menu it’s a slow cooked collar of pork… Why collar? Under utilised piece of meat, pork belly… Belly’s become almost fashionable hasn’t it? Belly’s been done to death yes. Every pub in the country does pork belly now. Yeah there's nothing wrong with it, it’s fantastic piece of meat. No absolutely not it’s a testament of how good it is. Exactly. That's why everyone's doing it. It’s a stunning piece of meat. We've been using suckling pork belly as well recently but yes you can’t deny the fact that pork belly is a fantastic cut and it works well with many, many things but collar… But aren’t we starting to see now that the so-called cheaper cuts are no longer cheap because of the demand for them? Yeah exactly the demand’s grown, well pork belly is probably the same price as pork fillet I should imagine and pork fillet, when I started, was as dear as fillet steak it’s similar with the price of beef is incredible anyway but using ox cheek or something they’re not as cheap as they once were. Collar it’s something we had a play about with brining solutions and it was equally just as tasty piece of meat as we've found belly to be And what do you serve that with? We serve that with sort of various textures of artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, very seasonal at the moment plus we serve it with a hazelnut and watercress salad. Again very seasonal watercress. Exactly yeah. And it’s just a nice combination of textures from the artichokes, hot and cold and also. It’s our style of food at Simpsons where we take one ingredient and then sort of mix it up as best we can with temperatures and textures. Because you've really got pork, hazelnuts, artichokes, watercress, that's it. Exactly yes there's nothing fighting against each other, and that's what I'm trying to achieve here. So there's clarity, and to taste a raw artichoke against a crisp it’s a totally different thing. But it obviously works together so well Yeah. Well listen Luke once again… Thank you Mark. You’re a gentleman. Nice to see you it’s always lovely to have you. It’s a pleasure thank you very much.  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st April 2012

Luke Tipping Simpsons Restaurant Birmingham

IN ASSOCIATION WITH